Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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I Can't Stop Reading This Politician's Terrible Puns

| Fri Oct. 23, 2015 1:10 PM EDT

Louisiana Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne is one of four major contenders in Saturday's gubernatorial election. He has also received international recognition for his terrible puns.

Beginning in 2003, when he was a state senator, and continuing through his tenure as Louisiana secretary of state, Dardenne has regularly submitted original, single-sentence works of prose to the Bulwer–Lytton Fiction Contest, "a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels." The contest, hosted by San Jose State University, takes its name from the opening sentence of Edward George Bulwer–Lytton's 1830 novel, Paul Clifford—the first, but mercifully not last, usage of the phrase "It was a dark and stormy night..."

Dardenne's crowning literary achievement, noted on his campaign website, was his 2005 entry, which was a winner in the "vile puns" division. It went like this:

Falcon was her name and she was quite the bird of prey, sashaying past her adolescent admirers from one anchor store to another, past the kiosks where earrings longed to lie upon her lobes and sunglasses hoped to nestle on her nose, seemingly the beginning of a beautiful friendship with whomsoever caught the eye of the mall tease, Falcon.

He can really Hammet up when he wants to.

Dardenne has also twice received a "dishonorable mention" for his submissions. Like his 2003 entry:

The final auction item in the estate was the electric home in the frozen tundra, often referred to as "the top of the world," even though the world doesn't really have a top (or a bottom for that matter), and it was expected that Mrs. Claus, a pleasantly plump lady who smelled of cookie dough, would again have to outbid the jovial fat man’s former employees to purchase his assets, that is until the gavel fell and the auctioneer announced solemnly, "The elves have left the building."

And 2008:

"Dimwitted and flushed, Sgt. John Head was frustrated by his constipated attempts to arrest the so-called 'Bathroom Burglar' until, while wiping his brow, he realized that each victim had been robbed in a men's room, thereby focusing his attention on the janitor, whose cleaning habits clearly established a commodus operandi."

The judges weren't exactly bowled over by that.

In Louisiana's jungle primary, the top two vote-getters advance to a November runoff election if no candidate wins a majority. Dardenne has cast himself as a scandal-free alternative to fellow Republican, Sen. David Vitter.


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Things That Were Shorter Than Hillary Clinton's Benghazi Hearing

| Thu Oct. 22, 2015 8:40 PM EDT

Hillary Clinton's hearing on Benghazi lasted more than 11 hours on Thursday. Here are some things that were shorter:

  • The Hobbit trilogy
  • Pickett's Charge
  • The administration of Pedro Lascuráin, the 34th president of Mexico
  • The lifespan of a female mayfly
  • Phish's set at Big Cypress in 1999
  • The Anglo-Zanzibar War
  • The Pawtucket Red Sox's 33-inning victory over the Rochester Red Wings in 1981
  • The Goldblum Challenge (in which one watches this 10-hour video of Jeff Goldblum laughing)

Jim Webb and the Curse of the 2008 Vice Presidential Candidates

| Tue Oct. 20, 2015 12:21 PM EDT

Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) dropped out of the Democratic presidential race on Tuesday but left open the possibility of running next year as an independent. Webb has been many things—decorated Vietnam vet, boxer, Navy secretary, author, senator—but for a few months in 2008 (until he took his own name out of consideration), he was also a popular choice to be Barack Obama's running mate. Webb, as the Wall Street Journal put it, was "the sort of Democrat who can offer strong defense credentials, as well as a centrist, pro-gun appeal to white voters in an upper South state."

And maybe that's where he went wrong. Seven years later, almost every individual floated as potential Republican or Democratic vice presidential choice in 2008 is either out of politics or on their way out. Consider John McCain's choices:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: Currently touting his strong tied-for-fifth-place showing in the Iowa polls.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: Resigned during her first term, now writing occasionally viral Facebook posts.

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman: Retired to become a lobbyist.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty: Couldn't beat Michele Bachmann, now a lobbyist.

Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor: Lost his primary to this guy.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: Skiing, probably?

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge: Running a global security firm.

Or Obama's:

Indiana Sen.Evan Bayh: Retired to become a lobbyist.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius: Resigned from her post as secretary of health and human services after a calamitous HealthCare.gov rollout.

Texas Rep. Chet Edwards: Lost his seat in 2010.

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden: It's complicated.

The only exception to the Curse of 2008 is then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who went on to replace Webb in the Senate and is currently considered a possible vice presidential candidate on the Democratic side. (Hillary Clinton was famously not considered, which perhaps explains her bright presidential prospects in 2016.)

The lesson, as always, is to never do anything ambitious.

Ben Carson Is Taking a Break From Talking About Hitler to Sell His Book

| Thu Oct. 15, 2015 10:34 AM EDT

Ben Carson, currently trailing only Donald Trump in the Republican presidential polls with just three months to go until the first votes are cast, is taking some time off—to sell his new book.

Per ABC News:

Republican presidential contender Dr. Ben Carson has put his public campaign events on hold for two more weeks to go on book tour for his new tome "A More Perfect Union" and catch up on fundraising events.

The campaign has been careful to separate campaign events and the book tour, and doesn't want to classify the tour as related to the campaign in any way.

This week he is catching up on fundraising events and will be back on his book tour next week making stops in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. So for the next two weeks, Carson won't be appearing at any public "campaign events."

Put another way: He hasn't held a campaign event since October 2, and he won't hold another until October 28.

National Review's Jim Geraghty asks the obvious question: "Why on earth would any serious candidate for president decide to stop campaigning at a moment like this for some book-signings and readings?" A better question might be, why start running a real campaign now? Carson has more or less been on a book tour for the last three years, releasing a handful of books in quick succession that have built up his name recognition among conservative voters and given him ample free media at places like Fox News. He's even continued to deliver paid speeches during the campaign.

It's unconventional, sure, but it has made him a lot of money and propelled him to near the top of the GOP field. You can't argue with the results.

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